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The Death of Fadlallah

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Misperception, willful or naive, is to be expected in US commentary on the Middle East. But it’s hard to think of an Arab figure as consistently misperceived as the Lebanese Shia cleric Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, who died on 4 July (a holiday you can be fairly sure he wasn’t celebrating). In obituaries in the American press (and in poor Octavia Nasr’s tweet, which cost her a job at CNN), Fadlallah was, as ever, described as the ‘spiritual leader’ or ‘spiritual father’ of Hezbollah: never mind that he’d been estranged from Hezbollah since the 1990s. And he was invariably portrayed as a dangerous extremist, if not a terrorist. You would hardly know that he was the first cleric in the Islamic world to denounce the attacks of September 11, or that he was an advocate of gender equality and inter-religious dialogue, staking out positions which won him the praise of Frances Guy, Britain’s ambassador to Beirut. Guy may be joining Nasr on the unemployment line for cutting through the usual clichés about Hezbollah’s ‘spiritual leader’: her blog, honouring Fadlallah as a ‘decent man’ whose death left Lebanon ‘a lesser place’, was taken down by the Foreign Office after ‘mature consideration’ — and vituperative Israeli attacks. This article by David Kenner in Foreign Policy sets the record straight on a complicated and influential man.

Comments on “The Death of Fadlallah”

  1. pinhut says:

    I read the Independent piece on it. Once you reached the line – “The Israel reaction was one of fury…” then you knew it was all over for Guy. Thou shalt not offendeth Israel has become a rather central, if unstated, feature of UK politics since 1997.

    Israel is also currently staging a Holocaust memorial in Guatemala, a country whose ‘dirty war’ it supplied equipment to (after the US imposed a military embargo), including a computer system that was used to target subversives for disappearance, along with the services of COIN advisers, etc.

    That was state terrorism, though, so I suppose it’s okay.

  2. Desertico says:

    This is a well written piece on this man about who I had read very little and heard even less. The questions must inevitably arise as to who is going to replace Fadlallah.

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